Notes from the Naturalist: Week 31 Nature Preschool at HCMA

Mud, mud, mud, glorious mud! We found it, rolled in it, kicked it around and just could not walk away from it! Let me be very clear: we are never disappointed by what we find up here on Little Round Top. The mud today brought a chorus of singing from happy children. Some rowed their boats while sitting in the mud, some kicked it around and others just stomped in it. And you all know what we did today by the bags of dirty clothing that came home. We wouldn’t change that play for a minute. Yes, its work, its dirty but it fulfills each child in a different way that other play cannot replace.

“Scientists have now confirmed something that children have always instinctively known; playing in mud is a joyful experience. Recent research has shown that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium Vaccae which stimulates the immune system and increases the levels of serotonin in our brains, an endorphin that soothes, calms, and helps us to relax. Scientists say regular exposure to the bacteria may help reduce a child’s vulnerability to depression. In short, playing in mud makes you happier!”

“Mud play is inclusive of all children. It allows children to play at their own developmental level. Mud is an open ended material that meets the diverse needs and interests of different children. Younger or less skilled children might focus on the sensory experience whereas older children may have more specific goals in mind for their mud play. Some children may thoroughly enjoy the sensation of mud between their toes while others are only comfortable poking a finger into the mud. Allow children to explore the mud at their own comfort level. With mud, there is something for everyone and there are no wrong answers.” -

We also did a little “collecting” today. I will refrain from the details (Mother’s Day is coming….)! Watching each child take to the task at hand was very interesting. Some children raced through the activity to move on to play while others were completely absorbed in the activity. One child spent over thirty minutes inspecting and gathering. This child was full on in concentration mode and would not be budged to play. Can you imagine the level of engagement this child felt?

After our collecting we took a walk down to the gathering area. All around us we could see Canada May Flower (Maianthemum canadense). It is close to blooming and will soon have several white flowers branching off from its stock. One of the first spring flowers we will see but soon many more will be popping up. We also noticed Starry False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina stellate) just starting to come up. The wildflower search in New England can be so much fun! But if you really want to know where to find a certain species in our area, get your hands on a copy of the NH Soil Survey for Grafton County. Once you know the soil type, you can then start your search for that hard to find flower – like Dutchman’s Breeches! For more information on New Hampshire Wildflowers check out this link: